Friday, September 25, 2015

Where is the "UNDO" button?


Sometimes I need a "UNDO" button:

  • the lesson I planned is a complete disaster;
  • I never copied the test I need for this period;
  • my students are angry because I overlooked an infraction for one student but not for another;
  • the teacher next door was out of school three days with a sick child and I didn't take the time to ask about the child, offer my help, or just share an encouraging word;
  • a student is struggling in my class but I don't offer any extra help;
  • in impatience I criticized a student and embarrassed him in front of his peers;
  • homeroom attendance? I completely forgot to check and submit! Was everyone there?;
  • that girl was visibly upset by something, but I didn't stop to see what was wrong or how I could help;
  • oh, I was supposed to attend a meeting this morning!

Life doesn't have a "UNDO" button.


At times I want to take back my words, change my actions or reactions, or even go back and "insert" what I've omitted. But I can't. And I feel like a failure. And I criticize myself. And I wait for the angry phone call or email, or see disaster unfold before me. I relive the moment in my mind, and replay the failure again and again...and again.


Sometimes I drag myself home at night thinking that perhaps I should choose a new career.


But there is a "REDO" button.

  • Tomorrow I can begin again;
  • I can swallow my pride and apologize--to my administrators, to my coworkers, to my students (yes, it is difficult, but it is necessary);
  • I can make a phone call home;
  • I can track down a student in another class;
  • I can explain (NOT excuse) what I have done, how I have failed, and how I will do things differently;
  • I can remember what I preach to my students--mistakes are not the end of my life; they are opportunities for growth.
We are all human. We will make mistakes. We need to own the mistakes. We need to recover, to change, to grow.


What mistakes have you had to face?

What have you done to correct them?

Will you choose to learn and grow from your mistakes, 
will you declare yourself all-powerful, autonomous and too important to apologize, 
or will you proclaim yourself a loser beyond remedy and quit trying?



Only one answer is right...



REDO!



Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Emulating My Teacher Heroes (1)

My mom tells everyone that I have only ever wanted to do one thing with my life--teach, and she is correct. Even in high school I analyzed my teachers and their teaching methods and identified what I wanted to do like they did. One particular role model was Miss Carole Ewing.

I wasn't the only one who looked forward to Miss Ewing's social studies classes; many of my classmates also loved and admired her. Miss Ewing frequently wore yellow, always smiled enormously, and unfailingly taught with energy and passion. We secretly dubbed her the "Sunshine Lady," and once even secured our principal's permission and assistance to give her a surprise "Sunshine Party" in her classroom.

Her room was full of yellow balloons, yellow streamers, yellow cake, and 25 or so teenagers dressed in yellow shirts. As she entered we all sang, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine..." Of course, she gave us her characteristic grin and the party began.

There were many things about Miss Ewing that I wanted to emulate--her enthusiasm, her high expectations, her time and classroom management, her creative projects and activities, but this is "the one": 

JOY.


We loved Miss Ewing and her classes because we could see and feel her joy. Likewise, we could experience that joy when we were with her.

I want my students to experience that from me! As they enter the room, do they encounter joy or gloom? What do I communicate to them by my facial expressions, body language, actions and words? I've wanted my whole life to be a teacher; will I follow in the footsteps of my dear role model?

Do you have teacher heroes or role models? 


What attributes or actions do you want to emulate? 


What would you want your students to remember about you?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Enter Stage Right

A teacher, mentor and friend gave me a piece of advice that has resonated in my heart and mind for years:

"If you are going to be a good teacher, you have to be a good actor (actress)".


What did he mean?

Regardless of the kind of day I'm having, I need to set my personal difficulties/thoughts aside and teach as though everything were great for me.

That is a troubling statement--I can't share my life with my students? I can't be sad, frustrated, angry or discouraged?

I don't think that he meant that I had to be dispassionate and stoic with my students. It's much more than that.

I have a choice to make: 

will I let my emotions rule my thoughts, words and actions, 

or will I bring my emotions under control 

and think, speak and act professionally?


Especially in the present time my students see, hear and experience life controlled by free-range emotions. What they don't often see is caged emotions--emotions under control. I can, and should, be that model for them.


Acting is performing my duty to the best of my ability, 

subduing emotions and impulses. 


At the same time, I can share personal experiences and explain how I feel (and why), demonstrating for my students how to respond in a right way. These are the moments when what I teach goes backstage for a greater life lesson. Here are a few of these moments:

  • a special keepsake is stolen or carelessly broken; how will I react?
  • a student makes a rude or demeaning comment to me: will I retaliate or choose a different response?
  • a student dies: how can I help my students deal with their grief by how I deal with mine?

Do you rule your emotions or do your emotions rule you?


In what other ways does a teacher need to be a great actor?




Friday, September 4, 2015

Called To Teach

        I am called and gifted to be a teacher in public education. As such, I commit to begin each day believing in and expecting the best of each of my students, regardless of the successes and/or failures of the previous day.
        Inside the classroom, I maximize the time by creating learning opportunities to keep the students involved in the learning process. I strive not to waste time—my time or theirs—and to model for them a work ethic and a commitment to excellence. As I model a passion for learning and for my subject matter, I can inspire the same in them. Outside the classroom, I am still a teacher and a role model for my students. At school events, in a public restaurant, on a walking trail, at home, and in church I am the same as I am in the classroom.

        I am committed to excellence, passion and integrity. 

I will live my life in this way, 

and I will seek to develop these traits in my students as well.


As part of my graduate work a few years ago, I was assigned to write my "personal, professional mission statement". This was a valuable reflective exercise, as I put into writing the thoughts in my head and the desires in my heart.

What drives you?

Why do you teach?

Listening or Hearing?

19  Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person  be quick to hear,  slow to speak,  slow to anger;   20  for the anger of man does ...